There’s been a skirmish between Larry Moran and Barry Arrington about whether Barry understands the Theory of Evolution, and the latest salvo is a piece at UD, entitled, Can a Lowly Lawyer Make a Useful Contribution? Maybe.
Well, in a sense, Barry makes a useful contribution in that post, as he gives a very nice illustration of a common misunderstanding about the process of hypothesis testing, in this case, basic model-fitting and null hypothesis testing, the workhorse (with all its faults) of scientific research. Barry writes:
[Philip]Johnson is saying that attorneys are trained to detect baloney. And that training is very helpful in the evolution debate, because that debate is chock-full of faulty logic (especially circular reasoning), abuse of language (especially equivocations), assumptions masquerading as facts, unexamined premises, etc. etc.
Consider, to take one example of many, cladistics. It does not take a genius to know that cladistic techniques do not establish common descent; rather they assume it. But I bet if one asked, 9 out of 10 materialist evolutionists, even the trained scientists among them, would tell you that cladistics is powerful evidence for common descent. As Johnson argues, a lawyer’s training may help him understand when faulty arguments are being made, sometimes even better than those with a far superior grasp of the technical aspects of the field. This is not to say that common descent is necessarily false; only cladistics does not establish the matter one way or the other.
In summary, I am trained to evaluate arguments by stripping them down to examine the meaning of the terms used, exposing the underlying assumptions, and following the logic (or, as is often the case, exposing the lack of logic). And I think I do a pretty fair job of that, both in my legal practice and here at UD.
Barry has made two common errors here. First he has confused the assumption of common descent with the conclusion of common descent, and thus detected circular reasoning where there is none. Secondly he has confused the process of fitting a model with the broader concept of a hypothesised model.